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When You Can't Afford A Veterinarian

Nov 4, 2011 | | |
  1. Written by Mary Anne Miller
    This question comes up in many internet forums daily. A member will post a series of complaints about their cat, some of them heart-wrenching, and then follow up the list of symptoms with, "But I can't afford a vet, so what do I do?"

    When you share your life with a cat, or any animal, you assume the responsibility of that animal. Vet care is not a luxury; vet care is a necessity, and at times an emergency. The animal should not be denied veterinary care because you can’t afford it. A small health issue handled right away will prevent a larger health issue that will develop later.

    Editor's note: We have a more up-to-date article on this topic:
    No Money For Vet Care How To Find Help And Save Your Cats Life


    Maintaining good, quality care for your cat will help. Making sure that he/she is eating quality foods, and that he/she has been vaccinated against all known diseases is a great way to prevent health issues from occurring. Flea treating your cat safely goes a long way in helping a cat remain healthy. Not medicating your cat unwisely with over the counter products, and ignoring any “miracle cure” you read about on the Internet will help safeguard your pet.

    There are ways in which you can work with vets, but you shouldn’t carry the attitude into their clinic, that just because vets work and care for animals, they should foot the bill for your cat all by themselves. That is hardly fair to your vet, and the people who work under them.

    Familiarize yourself with your vet’s office policies. Do they accept payment plans? Post-dated checks? Can you swap labor for vet bills? I know one gal that worked half the summer putting up a horse fence for her vet, while her vet cared for her sick mare. Get creative if you have to, some vets are willing to horse-trade. It doesn't hurt to ask, they can always say no. In the olden days, that’s how people worked with veterinarians by trading items of value, for services of value.

    Is there a humane society near you? Give them a call and ask them if they have a low-cost vet available? Talk to Cat Rescue groups in your area and see if they will swap time spent to help them, if they will help you. Sell items of value. Turn off your computer, disconnect from the Internet and use the money to obtain care.

    There are groups out there that will help you. One of the most effective groups is www.imom.org Established in 1998, they screen their applicants carefully but they can help you out if you qualify.

    The Humane Society of the United States has a good webpage to refer to if you cannot afford veterinary care.

    Editor's note: a recommended financing option that often comes up on our forums is: Veterinary Financing | Healthcare Financing | CareCredit.

    You should also investigate the Pet Insurance Companies and see if you can find an adequate policy for your cat before the cat falls ill. Another option is to talk to the office manager at your vet clinic first, but start overpaying your vet bills before you pet falls gravely ill. That way you have a reserve of cash available and you can't get to it, except to use it for what it was meant for, the well-being of your pet.

    Visit the Cat Health section in Meowhoo.com. You will find a myriad of websites that pertain to good health care and it would benefit you to know about what is going on with your cat and what you need to do in order to nurse her back to health. It also will help you to know what questions to ask your vet.

    If you live close to a vet school, that is another opportunity available for you. Getting a second vet's opinion is also a way to go. The second vet might be a bit less expensive than the first. Look into Internet vets that do phone consults. You need a credit card, but you can obtain some vital help in a dire situation. Of course the best way is to have a vet look at your cat, and diagnose the problem, offer solutions. Don’t bother the vet with questions about how you are going to pay for it, that’s why he hires an office staff. Find the office manager and sit down calmly and find out your options.

    Another means to consider is to stop unnecessary spending for awhile. I am not saying deprive yourself permanently of perks or pleasures, but if you would for example, quit smoking or cut down, stop drinking soda pop, don’t go out to fast food places or restaurants, or rent videos, or go to movies for a few months and put that amount into a special pet fund, think of how far ahead of the game you would be. Not buying that new pair of shoes, that you don't really need but you want and just exercising caution when spending would help immensely to give you a nest egg that you can fall back on.

    There are ways to handle a large vet bill. Please don't expect to land in internet forums and be handed a miracle cure, or the money to pay for one. The forums here on TCS are all about the welfare of cats, but we also promote responsible pet ownership . Learn how to be a responsible pet owner and then this problem will never confront you.


    Mary Anne Miller is a free-lance writer, and member of the Cat Writers' Association. She is a web copy writer, and passionate about feral cats/kittens and bottle babies. You can read more by Mary Anne at her Feral Cat Behavior Blog.


    Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!
    Nov 4, 2011 | | |

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  1. Gaven Kent
    I couldn't agree with you more! Their medical care should never be an afterthought and we are duty bound to provide that care. Yes vet bills can be infuriatingly expensive and pet insurance companies leave us puzzled at times but what they give us cannot be translated into monetary terms
  2. Anne
  3. deucedeuce
    This article is not only poorly-written but down-right offensive. I've spent half an
    Hour trying to justify the author's wording and point of view, but she's just simply out of touch.
  4. akirababe
    I only disagree with one thing about this post; pet insurance.  Pet insurance is practically a scam.  They're worse than American health insurance policies with how tight-fisted they are about releasing funds to cover pet care.  They don't cover things like cancer treatments or anything that could be construed as "genetic" (such as a Manx having spine problems) and they don't even cover regular checkups, which can run you 200 bucks per pet, per year. To make things worse, they only cover a certain amount of emergencies every two years, or what have you.  You're better off getting a quote from a pet insurance company and putting the same monthly fee they would charge (anywhere from 20-50/mo, depending on breed/age/sex/etc) into a special savings account and using it to pay for your vet bills.  You can be saving up to $600 a year towards emergency treatments, and you'll always know your "insurance payments" are guaranteed to cover whatever it is you need covered.
  5. Anne
    I'm sorry you feel that way, @genny7766. I happen to know the writer of the article and I am sure she did not mean to insult or berate anyone. Like you said, there are no miracle solutions. We have another article on this topic, a newer one with links to charities that can help. No miracle solutions there either, I'm afraid, but for some specific cases, some of them may be able to offer the help that is needed.
    http://www.thecatsite.com/a/no-money-for-vet-care-how-to-find-help-and-save-your-cats-life
  6. genny7766
    I did not join The Cat Site expecting answers that would supply me with a miracle solution to my cat's health issues, but I certainly did not expect to be reading such an insulting and condescending article about 'responsible' pet ownership. I am a lifelong pet owner and currently I have two cats that are both neutered and vaccinated. They have had regular veterinary visits and - until a few months ago - both were in excellent health. Now, after several hundred dollars worth of tests and exams with my sweet 7 yr. old kitty, I know little more than when I first took him to be examined. How does this author think I feel, tears pouring down my face, telling my vet 'I know it sounds awful, but there is a limit to what I can spend'? This is not indicative of how much or how little I love my pet, but a plain hard fact: I simply do not have thousands of dollars to spend. Regarding what we DO know, I'm not certain that any amount of money will save him and I live with the guilt of that and wondering what I could have done. Following his most recent bloodwork and x-rays indicating a possible obstruction, I was told that even with surgery, the outcomes are generally poor. Believing that there is a chance, I've gone along with our vet's recommendations and AM hoping for a miracle, but having gone down this road before (with cats that were twice the age of this boy) I am sadly doubtful of such miracle occurring. I do not expect veterinary care to be 'cheap'  or free and while I disagree with those cynical enough to argue 'It's all about the money' it's time to stop vilifying those of us who do not have such incredibly disposable income. 
  7. save our paws
    @Anne Per your request, I edited out the content of this article on SaveOurPaws.net.
  8. Anne
    @Save Our Paws I'm really glad you liked the article, but please do not re-post any content from TCS. You are more than welcome to link to any article, but not re-post it. Thank you!
  9. save our paws
    This article is very good.  I even re-posted it on my site.
  10. turtlesmom
    "Learn how to be a responsible pet owner and then this problem will never confront you." This is not a true statement. Opinion, yes, but not factual in the real lives of so many people.  Many, many things can happen in the human lives of very loving and responsible pet owners including loss of jobs, bankruptcy, financially draining human health issues...just to name a few. And if you have more than one pet, the financially draining health issues of one loving pet could make dealing with another pet's expensive health issues impossible. And one thing that is so unbelievable to me is when some vets and other people make a pet owner feel horrible and guilty when they just can't afford thousands of dollars towards their pet's health issue(s)!  Don't they think we feel horrible enough without their help??

    This has not happened to me, and I hope it never does. My vet would probably set up a payment plan if it came to that. But with my cat, Turtle, at 15-1/2 years old now and just starting to have some serious health issues, I may be faced with a decision I don't want to have to make.  And if I am, I pray the people involved with have compassion and understanding that although I love Turtle so very much, and will do as much as I can for her, there sadly is a limit as I don't have a bottomless well of money to pull from.